This pair of items combines my interest in military ephemera with my affection for London, and particularly, London Underground maps. Both items were provided to Canadian soldiers, sailors and Airmen who were on Leave in London during the Second World War.
The first item is a pocket-sized 2.75″ x 4.25″ Leave Guide for London that contains tips and suggestions on where to stay, where to eat and what to see. It also includes a fold-out map in the back. The booklet ends with an article entitled Enjoy Your Leave – But which includes the warning: Be wary of ‘free’ admission to dubious night haunts from which its hard to escape with any money left on you. London folk are friendly to soldiers from overseas, but don’t mistake for pure friendship the very affectionate greeting of women who stroll idly about the street corners.
The second item is 4″ x 6″ London Leave Clubs booklet that includes a listing of clubs, suggestions on places of interest to the visitor, an H.C. Beck London Underground map and a fold-out map in the back. I’m dating this item to 1943 based on a reference made to 1942 visitor figures in the text.
For more scans of both items check out my Leave Guides for London set on Flickr.
Several months ago I was pawing through a box of photos in a shop and a small b&w snapshot caught my eye. It featured an old bus making its way up a long icy road with several buildings in the background, one that included the bottom edge of a painted sign that read The Park Hotel. The weather, lay of the land and the fact that I found it in a box containing military photos suggested it could have been taken in the prairies sometime during the 1930’s or 40’s.
My initial research turned up nothing so at the end of November I decided to take advantage of The Astonishing Power of Flickr and post my mystery photo to the What’s that Picture? group. At about the same time I was scanning some old wartime photos of my girlfriend’s maternal grandfather who served and died in the final weeks of World War II. I posted them (privately) to Flickr so that she and her brother (the family historian) could check them out.
A few days after Christmas a What’s that Picture? group member solved the mystery behind the ‘Street With No Name’. It was in fact Manitoba Avenue in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan and with that information I was able to pin the photo to Historypin. Mission accomplished and end of story, right? Well, no.
Last night my girlfriend’s brother was trying to download the photos I posted of his maternal grandfather who died in the Netherlands in April 1945. I encouraged him to sign up for a free Flickr account and added him to my contacts list. While do so he discovered the picture of the Park Hotel on Manitoba Avenue. A few moments later he emailed me the obituary I’ve included here. Remarkably his paternal grandfather died while working in the Park Hotel in 1942!